Lessons on the water
By Jonathan Powell
A passion for dragon-boat racing has forged a partnership between an expatriate adult team and the Hong Kong Sea School for disadvantaged local boys.
The Sea School and the AIA Southside Massive social team have both entered tomorrow's Circus Capital Stanley Dragon Boat Championships.
Southside Massive's members, who use the facilities at Sea School for weekly training sessions, have raised $12,000 to pay for one boy's full-year expenses for board, studies and activities.
The annual event is held right on the school's doorstep, at Stanley Main Beach, and is the biggest of seven dragon boat races being held around the SAR to celebrate Tuen Ng festival.
'This is a good example of how dragon boating has developed into a sport that brings the community together,' said Jeremy Walker, who is in charge of Southside Massive.
'We want to promote the development of the sport among young people, and this scholarship will help bring another person into the activities that Sea School runs.'
At the recent Deep Water Bay Championships, two boys from Sea School paddled for Southside Massive and reached the final.
Co-operation and support from the community is vital to help run the marine activities at the school, said headmaster Bill Hutchinson.
'Dragon boating is one of the major sports we do, as well as canoeing, windsurfing and sailing, and this kind of support is what we need.
'Dragon boating has become a way for the boys to mix with adults and expatriates. It's become a kind of cultural exchange opportunity for them.
'When they are out training, they often have practice races and talk with the women's teams who are out on the water, too. It maintains a social atmosphere.'
Many Form Five graduates from Sea School have gone on to compete with some of the top dragon-boat teams in Hong Kong, such as Kayak United and Southern Eagle.
Sea School will be aiming to emulate their brilliant effort at last year's Stanley Championships where they won the second-tier Plate competition ahead of adult teams.
The team has been training hard three times a week and achieved respectable results at the Deep Water Bay Championships and Stanley Fisherman's race this month. 'They mustn't be complacent,' said Mr Hutchinson. 'But they know what they are capable of, and that they can succeed. This is the big one.'
The 39-year-old Stanley Championships will be bigger than ever this year, with 180 teams set to take to the water.
It brings together the wider Hong Kong community more than any other race, said Mr Walker.
'Few races see teams from such a wide cross-section,' he said. 'There are Chinese and expatriate club teams, as well as schools and universities, up against company teams. It is a true pan-Hong Kong event.'
People will also flock to join races at Tai Po, Tuen Mun, Sai Kung, Sha Tin, Lantau (Tai O) and Aberdeen, and enjoy the traditional activities that mark the festive occasion.